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McNeil River — State Game Sanctuary and Refuge
What to Bring

You may also download a printable checklist (PDF 24 kB) of recommended and required equipment.

  • PERMIT & PICTURE ID — Make sure to bring your McNeil River State Game Sanctuary Guided Viewing or Standby Viewing permit and a picture ID (Drivers Lic. or passport). You will need to bring this with you to access the sanctuary.
  • Bring clothing that will provide warmth while being stationary in the wind and rain. Several changes of clothes including extra socks. Synthetic or wool clothing is best for rainy cold windy days (generally, the worst you can expect is rain and wind with temperatures in the 40’s and at best, it will be sunny with temperatures in the 60’s).
  • Warm hat and gloves - waterproof gloves (neoprene gloves or rubber gloves with liners) & non-waterproof.
  • Good quality raincoat and rain pants. Ponchos are NOT recommended. Brimmed rain hat if you like.
  • Hip boots or chest waders (hot in warm weather, but warm in cool weather) with wading boots are essential for wading through mud and water in the bear viewing area. The icy cold water may be 2-3 feet deep. The mud can be like walking in peanut butter - it is very easy to step out of your boots and lose your balance so your boots should fit your feet well. Do not bring wading footgear with absorbent felt or fiber material on the soles; they can introduce and spread invasive plants and organisms, into Alaska waters. These type boots also get coated with tidal mud and become very slippery and ineffective.
  • Tent - A storm proof, high-quality sturdy tent able to withstand high winds and driving rain with a good rain fly, ground cloth, stakes (enough to stake tent completely), tie-down cord(s), and a tent repair kit. A low-quality cheap tent will not provide you adequate shelter.
  • Hiking boots or shoes for around camp and while at the viewing sites.
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping Pad - Air mattress or foam pads (tent sites are graveled).
  • Cook kit and eating utensils - There are two three burner countertop propane camp stoves in the cook cabin and thanks to Friends of McNeil River we also have a supply of pots and pans for public use, so you do NOT need to bring these items. You do need to bring plates, bowls, utensils and any specialized cooking gear.
  • Water bottles and a water filter or other water treatment method (water supply is creek water and should be filtered or treated before consuming).
  • Food for your intended length of stay plus several extra days (in case weather delays your departure). Foods that create minimal scraps and come with minimal packaging are preferred non-burnable trash has to be removed from the Sanctuary.
  • Lantern or flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Matches and/or lighters.
  • Toilet paper, etc. (Pit toilets are available only at camp. NO used paper products may be left at the viewing area or in the surrounding brush. Bring sealable plastic bags to hold your used items for the return trip to camp).
  • First aid kit and Insect repellent.
  • Toilet articles (including towel for the washhouse!).
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen (just in case!).
  • Backpack for transporting camera equipment, extra clothing, food and water between camp and the bear viewing areas (some method for keeping contents dry is a must – i.e., waterproof pack, dry bag, waterproof stuff sack(s) or plastic bags to protect food, clothing, camera equipment, etc.).
  • Binoculars.
  • River dry bags, duffle bags lined with plastic bags or other water resistant containers to transport your gear (in case it’s raining when you arrive or your gear gets dropped in the water when loading or unloading the float plane). Coolers are allowed at McNeil, but confirm with your air carrier before you leave home.
  • Photography Equipment: Camera, lenses, tripod, etc. Bring lots of digital storage capacity, film and extra batteries (please note that there is NO ELECTRICITY at the camp to recharge batteries). Excellent photographs can be made without specialized equipment. Bears may be as close as 20 feet at times. But the general distance is 75-200 feet.
  • Fishing equipment and a valid Alaska sport fishing license. Sealed container or plastic bags for fish.
  • Reading material and playing cards (in case of foul weather).